Glass shatters and plates are thrown. With this we are thrown into Queens of the Stone Age’s sixth album …Like Clockwork. This introduction couldn’t be more ill suited. In 2004 front man Josh Homme fired bassist/rageaholic Nick Oliveri from the group after what was a 4-year blast for the group; two seminal albums and a world tour, the globe had never known mainstream rock like ‘nicotine, valium, vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol’ and ‘CCCCCOCAINE!!’ Oliveri left and so did the danger, the very element that kept me from playing Rated R on the stereo while my parents were in the room. 2005’s Lullabies to Paralyze bore the brunt of a half-arsed Homme , things picked up on the perverted 2007 hit ‘Make It Wit Chu’ but the impact was all but gone. QOTSA’s hiatus began on a whisper, not an explosion. So how does Homme intend on regaining his title of queen of the Stone Age (the Elizabeth of stoner rock) in 2013? He gets out his sexy, packs his bad-arse and heads for the studio.
The damp ‘Keep Your Eyes Peeled’ opens the album. The bass thumps and the keys chime before Homme lifts his voice – ‘if life is but a dream, then wake me up’. It’s cold and hypnotising. Keep your eyes peeled? How can we not? ‘I Sat By the Ocean’ recalls the wow that was so enjoyed on 1998’s self-titled debut. Homme has always had an unconventional sex symbol. The pace slows down with ‘The Vampyre of Time and Memory’. Speed is traded for theme and Homme sings the plight of a man unloved and lonely. Unfortunately, the track does little to keep the listener attentive and the ballad finishes before any real emotional breakthrough is made. An attempt at the same thing is tried on ‘Kalopsia’, a delicate piano influenced dream. But the chorus stands out, a disturbed Homme shrieks and guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen splits ears with his cutting riffs.
The build up to …Like Clockwork was exactly that, like clockwork. Nearly every week a new collaborator would be announced. Dave Grohl , Mark Lanegen, Trent Reznor etc. Elton John wasn’t that surprising; he had worked with Alice In Chains on their 2009 comeback. But with such a delicacy of musicians it was difficult to predict how they would sound. Would Dave Grohl return them to their hard-rocking heyday or would Sir Elton turn them in another direction entirely? The presence of guests brings both. ‘My God is the Sun’ is an absolute classic. Homme ‘whoos’ and Grohl destroys. Elsewhere, Sir Elton sprinkles his trademark piano over ‘Fairweather Friends’ to satisfying affect. ‘I Appear Missing’ is a bombastic dystopia. Bombastic in length, dystopian in feel. In parts Homme’s voice doubles, as if desperate to be found. He is; the doctors brought him back to life in 2010.
The most interesting guest on this remarkable album is Nick Oliveri. Not through musical ability but through appearance. What’s interesting is he doesn’t scream or get a song to himself, he whispers. Homme brings him back to show the world that even with Oliveri there, it is Homme making QOTSA’s most spectacular album since Songs For The Deaf. Fans – Josh is back! Honey I’m Homme indeed.